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August 20, 2010

For More Information, Contact:
Melissa Figueroa (916) 651-4011
Phil Yost (650) 688-6384


SACRAMENTO – The California Legislature has acknowledged that the treatment of Italian Americans during World War II “represented a fundamental injustice” and has expressed its “deepest regrets.” Senate Concurrent Resolution 95, authored by State Sen. Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto), has been passed by the Assembly and the Senate “to help repair the damage to the Italian American community, and to discourage the occurrence of similar injustices” in the future. The measure is consistent with action taken in the U.S. Congress earlier in the decade.

During World War II, the United States government designated more than 100,000 California residents as “aliens” and forced many to leave their homes or endure other hardships. While the majority of those targeted were of Japanese descent, 10,000 Italian Americans had to leave their homes. Greater numbers were required to carry identification cards, were restricted in their travels and were subject to curfew. In some instances, their property was seized, and their livelihoods, particularly fishing along the coast, were denied them.

Simitian’s resolution originated in a proposal from Chet Campanella, a resident of San Jose’s Willow Glen neighborhood, as part of Simitian’s annual “There Oughta Be a Law” contest. Campanella’s parents, while not interned, were subjected to a curfew and searches of their home.

“We refer to it as the ‘untold story’ because it was classified – no one was supposed to know about it,” said Campanella. “Younger people probably don’t know that this ever happened. I love this country, and I think a formal apology is so important to the older people, the survivors, before we die.”

Passage of the resolution “makes me really happy,” said Campanella, “on behalf of grandparents, aunts and uncles, my parents and their friends – people who were really mistreated during World War II. It’s finally coming to an end.”

A report to Congress in November 2001, entitled “A Review of the Restrictions on Persons of Italian Ancestry During World War II,” chronicled the injustices against Italian Americans, at that time the largest foreign-born group in the United States, and concluded that “the impact of the wartime experience was devastating to Italian American communities in the United States,  and its effects are still being felt.”
Simitian said, “The treatment during World War II of people who were unjustly considered ‘suspicious’ because of their ethnic background was a sad chapter for our state. For survivors of that experience and their descendents, I hope this resolution will provide a long-due measure of recognition and respect.”

While the Resolution addresses a historic event, Simitian said the issue “has never been more timely. Given America’s ongoing conflict abroad,” he said, “the World War II experience is an important reminder of the need to respect the role and rights of those who have ties abroad.”

In his “There Oughta Be a Law” contest, Simitian invites constituents to suggest legislation. The winning ideas are introduced as bills. Campanella traveled to Sacramento to testify in support of the resolution in the Senate Rules Committee.

Simitian said he was particularly moved to seek acknowledgement by the Legislature because of the Legislature’s “regrettable” role in the episode.  The Legislature’s 1943 report of the “Joint Fact-Finding Committee on Un-American Activities in California,” commonly referred to as the Tenney Report for its author Senator Jack Tenney, “was not an effort that reflected particularly well on the Legislature,” said Simitian.

To learn more about Simitian’s “There Oughta Be A Law” contest or to view previous winners, visit